You have some huge opportunities to do better than your parents did. Please don’t take the easy way out.
I happen to be a big fan of lifestyle design and people living unconventional lives, but I try not to be judgmental about people who just want a comfortable career so they can live without work ruling their lives- says Corbett Barr. As an entrepreneur and reformed workaholic, I absolutely get the attraction of a “conventional” life.
It seems as though the lifestyle design movement has gotten a little off track lately. It has become less about following personal passions and dreams and more about a competitive ideal that everyone is supposed to aspire to. I understand why lots of you have been turned off by the whole movement.
However, there are many more important reasons to rethink what work and life mean to you and your generation than competing over who has the most free time or who travels to the most exotic locales every year.
There are primarily about three areas of opportunity here:
Let’s take a look at each area separately, and why you shouldn’t take the easy way out.
1. Your own personal lifestyle, passions and career.
They say people care more about what you do for a living and who you work with than how much you make. That’s great. For so long, the primary goal of college graduates has been to snag the job with the highest salary and biggest perks.
The problem is that what starts out as a great paycheck and a tolerable job quickly turns into panic that you aren’t living your dreams or full potential. Eventually if left untreated, that formerly cushy cubicle job can turn into full on crisis, divorce and/or health problems.
If you’re lucky, at some point you will realize you wanted more from your career than a paycheck and you’ll do something about it.
I’m not saying you have to jump with both feet into self-employment or becoming an artist or whatever else your real dream might involve. Just realize that it won’t get any easier. At least consider following your dream.
2. The broken power structure of our society.
If you do decide to go out and get a comfortable and well-paying job somewhere, you should first give some thought to the impact your potential employer has on society. Especially if that employer is a big corporation.
In the West, we live in an extremely wealthy society by world standards, but much of that wealth has come at the expense of work-life balance of the average worker. CEOs of big US companies are paid on average 262 times more than the average worker. In 1965, that ratio was only 24 to 1.
Power continues to accumulate at the top and shows no sign of stopping. Consumerism, celebrity culture and lack of investment in small businesses all contribute to a dwindling middle class and growing poverty.
If you have the choice between working for a small employee-owned or family run business versus a giant corporation with lobbyists and shameful benefits for the lowest-paid workers, I hope you choose the former, even if it means less pay.
What you do for a living isn’t the only chance you have to make a difference to society, either. Where you shop, the transportation you choose and what you eat all can contribute to or help reverse the imbalance of power and wealth in our country. It just requires thinking a little outside of yourself.
3. Help for those in need
It can be easy to forget that so many people around us and in other countries are struggling without the basics like a home, food, and clean water.
The cool thing is that lots of startups and foundations have shown that social entrepreneurship can create sustainable businesses while helping those in need.
It seems that many have just the right blend of compassion and entrepreneurial spirit to make innovative differences in the world’s most difficult social problems.
So what’s it gonna be?
The focus on unconventional lifestyles, entrepreneurship and doing what you’re passionate about is important if a little misguided. Instead of competing over who has more lifestyle design street cred, why not work together to make life better for yourselves and society as a whole?
I’m confident you’ll seize these opportunities for three reasons:
- You’re smart, passionate and more connected. Just take the depth of conversation that goes on at blogs like this one. We are clearly well connected and deeply passionate.
- Technology has opened so many doors. More than ever, anything really is possible for the motivated and impassioned.
- This crappy economy you’re entering the workforce in (or not) can actually be a learning lesson in disguise. Not having so many employment options means entrepreneurship and creativity will be more important to your generation. Hopefully it means more of you will become self-sufficient before the economy picks up again.
So what’s it going to be? The easy way out, or making your personal life, our society and the world better than any generation before? The world anxiously awaits your answer. Please share in the comments.